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Will You Vote? We Want to Know

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
Will You Vote? We Want to Know

The federal election campaign is in full swing. 3 middle-aged white men (4 in Quebec) are criss-crossing the land vying for your vote, as the press scrutinizes every word, tweet, and handshake (sometimes standing behind a steel fence).

 

Of course, fewer and fewer Canadians are going to the polls in federal elections – more than 40% of eligible voters did not vote in 2008. 18- to 24-year-olds had the lowest voter turnout of all, with more than 60% staying home.

 

Perhaps this is not surprising, considering none of the mainstream parties’ campaigns focus on fundamental issues like the global environmental crisis, the worsening gap between rich and poor, and Canada’s participation in two foreign wars. The sentiment that there is not much difference between parties is common, and the only two parties ever to hold power have done little to invalidate it. Canada’s asinine first-past-the-post voting system only makes things worse: if your riding’s not a close race, you had just as well stay home.

 

Still, everyone from Rick Mercer to Murray Dobbin is encouraging you to get involved in the current election campaign: “If you think you don't have time to get involved in this election, that it's too painful or irritating -- try to imagine what it will be like every morning for four years waking up to the fact that Harper has a majority,” says Dobbin. Networks like Catch-22 have been set up to defeat the Conservatives via strategic voting in selected ridings.

 

In contrast, many who make a point of not voting argue that it legitimizes a broken system; that staying home on election day is a more potent political act. “Can't eat chicken, beef, fish or pork if I'm a vegetarian. I find this situation analogous to how I regard electoral choices,” says one non-voter I know.  

 

What do you think? Will you vote in the federal election on May 2nd? Why or why not? Reply by posting a comment.


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Comments

Why I don't vote

A few elections back, I decided to stop voting. I didn't want to vote strategically, as I thought it played into the hands of the two major parties. They used it to up the fear factor. Also, I didn't want to vote for something I didn't truly support. I decided that I would only vote FOR something. At the time, the only thing I felt I could truly be FOR was a commitment to shrink the economy. You know that saying, "It's the economy, stupid"? I agree, but not for the same reason. Those who say that are commenting on how politicians rise and fall with the economy and all other issues fall in behind that one. Unfortunately, it seems to be true. I also believe that a growing economy equals environmental and social destruction. ALL the parties stand for a growing economy/capitalism, even the greens. I can't, in good conscience, vote for that.

 

I have destroyed my ballot before. If there were an organized movement to do this, I would definitely participate. As it is, so few ballots are spoiled that I think the general public thinks these are accounted for by people who are too stupid to know how to fill out a ballot. I do think it would be effective if 10, 20, 30% of ballots were spoiled, but I don't see that happening.

 

A few elections back (or was it the last one?), I did try to vote. I decided a carbon tax was something I could vote for and decided to do so. I was disenfranchised.

 

I realize I benefit a lot from the social contract I am a part of. But I think a huge amount of that benefit comes at the expense of the environment and other people. I would give up much of these benefits for a more just world. I feel that by voting for a government that treats people and planet with utter disregard, I am playing a part in sanctioning these activities. I don't want to do that. I don't vote (currently), but I feel I am a much more engaged citizen than many who do. I live a frugal, low impact lifestyle. I vounteer & help others. I strive to better myself. I try to bring joy to the world. I try to be a net gain. I believe all of that contributes infinitely more to the social contract than a vote ever could.

 

It pains me to have this position. I would LOVE to live in a society where I WANTED to participate. Where I believed in the greater goals of all and wanted to pitch in and move those goals forward. As it is, I try to earn a small enough amount each year that I don't have to pay taxes, since they are used to kill people all over the world, and at home, directly, and indirectly.

Geoff, would I be able to ask

Geoff, would I be able to ask you a few questions? I'm currently writing a story on voter disengagment and the election for a local paper, and I'd like to get your point of view especially since you've decided not to vote.

I am going to vote. I think

I am going to vote. I think the electoral system could use many reforms but I'm not convinced that the problems are so bad that it is not worth it to go and vote.

 

 

I am not going to vote. This

I am not going to vote.

This system is fundamentally corrupt.  This Democracy is a sham.  I want to take part in Life and Community. But, I can not in good conscience continue to take part in a system that supports the War agenda.  - The Foreign policies of thesse Parties support the War agenda.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although I do vote,

I feel that people who choose not to should be able to voice their dissatisfaction with the political system . . . by voting!

So we're starting The "I don't vote" Party of Canada.  More info at the Facebook group here: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_213673201982779&ap=1

"Should the radical left vote NDP?"

Here's a post I came across on Facebook. Lots of interesting comments below it too...

Hello Friends,

 

Over the past couple weeks I've been reading Facebook comments scattered here and there and talking with a number of different people about whether the Radical Left should vote NDP this coming federal election, May 2, 2011. I'm hoping to collect some of these very important and divergent viewpoints here in a central location, for my own benefit, for my students (if there are enough comments over the next two weeks or so then I'll copy them into a Word Doc, with your name removed if you wish), and for whoever else might wanna read this. This Note is open to everyone (including those who don't identify as the 'Radical Left'), so I would greatly appreciate if you please contribute in any way you can and want. 'Radical Left' means different things to different people, but I'm assuming we can all agree that: 1) we cannot overcome unnecessary (socially-derived) human suffering and environmental destruction under capitalism (and there are different ways of conceptualizing this), because it is precisely capitalism that generates so much unnecessary human suffering and environmental destruction- in the most efficient way ever devised; 2) the NDP is by NO means by ANY stretch of the imagination a revolutionary anti-capitalist party; and 3) it is absolutely possible to transform and overcome capitalism, and a cause very much worth striving towards!     

 

Having laid this groundwork, I am in particular interested in discussing the following three questions: 

 

1) Are the Conservatives more of a danger enough to seriously consider strategically voting for the Liberals?

 

2) Is there enough of a difference between the NDP and the Liberals to vote only for the NDP?

 

3) In the vein of Emma Goldman's "If voting changed anything they would make it illegal", is the NDP merely a choice of "moving backwards less fast", and so should we boycott the election entirely?

 

To get the juices flowing, I'll start off. I haven't thought much about strategic voting for the Liberals perhaps because I have the luxury of living in NDP MP Olivia Chow's riding, and there's a very good chance she'll get re-elected. If I was living in a riding where the Conservative MP consistently gets the bulk of the vote, then I don't know... there is no doubt in my mind that Stephen Harper is the most dangerous man in Canada today, our greatest threat to freedom, democracy, overcoming poverty and oppression, and saving our environment from turning into a toxic tailing pond. One example out of many: the situation of women in Canada has on the whole worsened under the reign of Harper. In 2004 the World Economic Forum (hardly a critical mouthpiece of feminism) placed Canada 7th best in its gender equality index; by 2009 this dropped to 25th. Not surprising considering Harper's cuts to all kinds of things, including the outright elimination of federal funding for rape crisis centers and the passage of such disgusting legislation as the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act in 2009.

 

Would a Liberal government be this regressive? Probably not, while keeping in mind that it was the Liberals that oversaw the biggest corporate tax cuts and decrease in social welfare funding in Canadian history in the 1990s. They're cut from the same corporate cloth, it's just that their rhetoric appeals more to the Left. On the other hand Harper's extreme contempt of parliament and attack on watchdog agencies etc etc seem uniquely vicious, more than any Liberal could get away with. Anyway, I'm unsure about question one, and I hope to hear what people have to say.

 

What I'm more sure about is the necessity to vote NDP if there is a closer race between the NDP and Liberal candidates, or as opposed to not voting at all. From what I gather, people advocate the latter mainly because all of the major parties are essentially pro-capitalist, and the NDP are certainly not 'revolutionary' (which I think everyone can agree on), thus not deserving the vote of the Radical Left. So is there enough of a difference between the NDP and Liberals to wanna vote for the NDP, or vote at all? I think absolutely yes. 

 

While I think that Jack Layton's call for union acceptance of concessions in 2008-9 is despicable, I think there are enough MPs in the NDP (including Layton himself) who not only firmly believe in the importance of maintaining what social welfare we have, but to some degree even improving aspects of it- whether it be increasing the number of nurses and doctors, stopping the cuts on homeless shelters, improving the Canada Pension Plan, restoring funding to Status of Women Canada, and so on. These policies SAVE LIVES. In other words, considering their support for social welfare in addition to their call for a reduced Canadian presence in Afghanistan, VOTING FOR THE NDP WILL SAVE LIVES.

 

So I guess one question for me would be, would boycotting the elections save MORE lives? First of all, it seems to me that not voting is exactly what Harper wants. This is because people who vote Conservative are the most loyal and active voters, so Harper can count on them to come out May 2. Let's be clear: a Harper majority government will KILL more people in Canada, whether directly or indirectly, slowly or quickly. Second, not voting for the NDP further marginalizes them into irrelevancy, which I think is dangerous in the medium-term, as then the Liberals (in English Canada) become the 'Left choice'. This is scary in itself, but it is also what Harper wants in his agenda to push the Center in Canada further Right. We need only look south of the border to see the effects of having two factions of the Business Party as the political spectrum: in advanced capitalist countries the US ranks lowest in all kinds of standard of living indicators, some even lower than in Cuba (like child mortality). Sixty million Americans qualify for food stamps, and fifty million have to skip meals because they can't afford to eat three times a day (this is in a country with 3 million millionaires and about four hundred billionaires).   

 

Furthermore, it is not clear to me what exactly not voting out of principle will accomplish, either in the short, medium, or even long run. I don't see how this will prevent the Conservative government from murdering more people, nor bring us any closer to overcoming capitalism. Of course, voting NDP will also NOT bring us much closer to overcoming capitalism, but I don't think anyone is arguing that. But it seems to me that improving basic living standards and civil rights and protecting and improving liberal democratic institutions gives greater opportunity to allow what WILL affect more radical change: people mobilizing, organizing, and fighting for it. It is much more difficult to agitate for radical change when one is concerned whether one can eat tonight, if one can afford to see if one's stomach pain is chronically serious, if one has to provide for one's retired parents, if one cannot afford childcare, if one is sleeping on the streets, if one is raped and can't afford help, or if one has to worry about being jailed or simply found disemboweled in a ditch if one criticizes the government. And I do not at all buy the argument that we have to live in Third World conditions and really feel the boot of oppression before we become radicalized. Many radical revolutionaries, especially of the 'vanguard-type', are staunchly middle class (let us not forget that Che Guevara, in my mind one of the most important revolutionaries of the twentieth century, was a doctor)- and thus privileged to not have to worry about securing basic needs (and perhaps this leads some to take them for granted). 

 

Let's be clear: it is MUCH easier to fight for radical change in Canada than it is in almost any Third World country. This is NOT because we have a benevolent state or whatever; it is because hundreds of thousands of people over the past more than one hundred years have bravely fought- some being killed- for the privileges that we enjoy today. And I don't see how else we can move closer to overcoming capitalism than by continuing this long and arduous and multi-faceted struggle. 

 

This gets me to my final point about the NDP. Democracy is not about electing the right party and then sitting back and hoping for the best until next election time. Democracy is about constantly demanding, agitating, organizing, mobilizing, and fighting for change- we must never allow electoral politics demobilize activists into mere voters. There are so many ways to do this, and so many are very important- and one way is to pressure political parties to pass progressive policies and protect and expand human rights and democratic institutions. These not only save lives in an immediate sense, but I think in the long term pressuring and shifting the balance of social forces within the state is crucial because the state is the institution in society with the most potential to fundamentally challenge capital.

 

So anyway, the NDP is by far the party that is most open to pressure from labor and social and environmental movements. We have almost no access to the Conservative Party, and nearly no access to the Liberal Party. It is virtually impossible to compete with the access that their financial and intellectual base, Big Business, has in these parties. The NDP's base is largely union membership, which is important in itself despite the many problems with the Big Unions, eg to a large extent as bastions of white male privilege (but I would take a tyranny of Big Unions over Big Business any day). But I hope everyone agrees that protecting and expanding (and democratizing) unions is crucial to improving the living standards of everyone in society, whether unionized or not. This will be easier the more NDP MPs are in government, because they are the most open to pressure from Labor. And we should not underestimate how the NDP are much closer to their communities than the Liberals, and how some NDP MPs and MPPs arise out of social movements themselves. Again, this makes a huge difference in terms of our capacity to pressure government for positive change, and to reverse the 30 year neoliberal onslaught (even if some elements in the NDP were/ are complacent in this onslaught). And a broader point is that maintaining pressure on the NDP as/ if they expand their influence in government gradually pushes the Center further to the Left in Canada, opening up more space for more radical movements and parties. This can only be a positive thing for increasing freedom and democracy!     

 

In sum, I think it is crucial to vote NDP this May 2 because it will more likely than not save lives in the shorter term, and in the longer term more likely than not open up more space to allow for more radical changes.

 

Please share your thoughts!!                 

 

Sean Starrs ☆彡

boycotting polls not a smart option

Outside of saying the NDP is the only legit option, I agree with Sean Starrs. Far more rational, realistic and thought out reasons to vote than any boycott of the polls argument I've heard, as well intentioned as boycotting might appear to be.
 
More elibible voters did not vote in the past election (41%) than did vote for the governing Conservatives and the opposition Liberals COMBINED (38%). Did that change anything? Nope. It's that simple. I wish folks would realize the potential power they have to profoundly change the direction and dialogue of this country in one day. Sorry, but the 'boycott the polls' option might be the most dumb-ass movement by otherwise intelligent and conscious people I've ever heard of. We're not the USA, we have more than two options. Including one which had its leader Elizabeth May barred from the national debates, who has written a book that details how to change our antiquated parliament system into something that works for the people, and who isn't 'one of the boys', literally. Plus we have a pretty damn progressive NDP MP in Halifax right now to vote FOR.
 
Boycotting your vote is a vastly different creature than boycotting purchasing from mega corporations. Yes the parliamentary system as is sucks, but boycotting voting just insures that it stays exactly as is. And those that serve the corporate interests and ignore yours stay in power, legally keeping their control over the police, military and everything else, and keeping any ears that might be receptive to your voice out of anywhere that can make a difference.
 
That 41% who didn't vote could make a massive difference. Mass boycotting didn't change anything last time and wont, ever. Harper wont change the system that he relies on for power, and could well ride all those ethical boycotters out there all the way to a majority. Then look the fuck out.
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